LAIR OF THE JACKAL

Amun, previously a rival and nemesis of Araña, entered the lair of the Jackal who recently paid for his services in an assassination attempt on the Kingpin. So far no attempt has been made as he has yet to discover a way to get to his target. He tried getting information out of the Enforcers, but they were loyal to the Kingpin. Amun found the Jackal discussing something with the Crime-Master. He seemed to be not pleased.

“You!” called the Jackal. “Cancel the hit on the Kingpin. I need you for something else. I need you to go after one of Araña’s companions.”

“Tsk, do you think I’m one of your goons you can just order to do anything?” asked Amun. “I’m an assassin for hire and Araña and anyone connected to her is off limits out of respect.”

“Now, now boy.” The Jackal walked over to Amun. “No one said anything about an assassination. I just need a distraction. Araña and her ‘New Slingers’ as they like to call themselves have been a thorn in my side during this war against the Kingpin. It’s time to pull out the thorn.”


EMPIRE STATE
Part V
Written by:
JUSTIN SANTOS


MANHATTAN, NEW YORK – PENTHOUSE OF WILSON FISK

If the Jackal was displeased about current events, then how would you explain how the Kingpin is feeling after learning about what happened to his Enforcers?

“Five grown men defeated by a mere child?!” The Kingpin slammed his fists on his desk. “I saw it all. The Beetle was recording that embarrassment. We are at war with the Jackal and some of my best men are losing to children.”

“To be fair I think he was a teenager,” Ox cut in.

“What did you take time to ask him?” The Kingpin began grinding his teeth. “This is inexcusable.”

Fancy Dan and Montana looked at the new Beetle who was standing quietly nearby as the Kingpin tore into his hired guns. There have been a number of people to dawn the identity of the armored Beetle, this new one was female.

“The number of superpowered people in this city has gotten out of control,” said Fancy Dan. “What can we do against these kids with just guns? And if the Beetle was there why didn’t she come help us? Is Tombstone’s little girl too afraid to get her hands dirty?”

“Enough of this,” demanded the Kingpin. “This war with the Jackal is far from over. In fact it’s just beginning. It’s time to go to work. Get your acts together. It appears the Jackal has put a hit on me. Find out what you can about this Egyptian assassin. Beetle, get out there and track down the young spider. Find out what she’s up to.”

BELLEVUE HOSPITAL CENTER

Lucas and Rome, out of costume, walked in unison through the emergency entrance of the hospital while helping someone in. The heroes had gathered and broke Rome’s family out from one of the Jackal’s hideouts. Rome’s older brother David Jr. was hurt badly and was carried to the emergency room. A nurse called for help from the medical staff and they took David.

The next morning, the family was together in David Jr.’s hospital room. Jessica decided to stay with Rome as Lucas went with Anya to visit her father. The youngest of the Sierra siblings, Caitlyn, looked over her eldest brother who was resting at the moment. Their parents watched as Rome quietly talked with Jessica. David Sr. and Brittney looked at each other and smiled.

“Rome with how fast we had to move last night you never had a chance to introduce us to your friends,” said Brittney. “Especially this young lady here.”

“Yesterday was crazy,” replied Rome.

“I’m Jessica Garcia, ma’am.” Jessica smiled. “It’s nice to meet you. I wish it was under better circumstances.”

“Thankfully, David is going to be all right.” Brittney saw Jessica grab Rome’s hand. “It’s thanks to you and the others. But I really want to thank you for being there for Rome.”

“You don’t have to thank me. Rome has been there for my family more than once in dire situations. It was only right that I did the same.”

Anya and Lucas spent some time with Gilberto before deciding to head out. It was eight in the morning and they hadn’t been home since yesterday. The two of them were on the hospital roof in their regular clothes discussing what to do next.

“Should we just go home?” asked Anya. “We left that girl Felicity with your mom. Maybe we should check up on her and figure out what her deal is. But then this gang war. You know it’s never really gonna end until either the Jackal or Kingpin are dead. The way things have been going we might end up dead first.”

“Don’t talk like that.” Lucas was a bit disappointed in her negativity. “We saved Rome’s family. At least one good thing has happened. Maybe we should check on my mom and this Felicity girl. I bet she’s worried sick about us. And we could use a break from all this. There are other heroes in New York. Let them handle it for once.”

Anya’s fighting spirit was almost completely diminished. She grabbed a hand of Lucas’s which he extended out to her. She gave him a weak smile before looking down stricken with grief. Lucas really felt for her. So much was happening. Not to mention one of the most important people in her life was lying possibly on his deathbed. They quietly stood there so they could have a moment to breathe.

Just as it looked like Anya was ready to move on, a brush of air flew passed her and seemingly rammed into Lucas. She didn’t know what just happened. Something moved so fast and took off with him. She panicked and began to switch to her costume that was under her clothes.

“Lucas!” she called for him.

“Hold it Spider-Girl,” a voice said from above. “The Kingpin would like an update on anything to do with the Jackal.”

Anya looked up. “You! Listen Beetle I don’t have time to deal with you. Besides I wasn’t working with the Kingpin anyway. Now if you’ll excuse me.”

The Beetle shot a blast of electricity at Anya making her leap back. Anya knew the Beetle wouldn’t let her go after Lucas without a fight. She quickly took the rest of her clothes off and put on her goggles.

“Beetle, you’re gonna regret getting between me and him.” Anya, now Araña, lifted her fists ready to strike.

Somewhere further away from the hospital Lucas was thrown into a nearby wall. He crashed hard and got back up grabbing his arm.

“What the hell was that?” he asked himself.

He got his answer when Amun appeared out of nowhere. “So you’re the boyfriend. I don’t get what she sees in you.”

“An Egyptian motif,” said Lucas. “Has a whack ass haircut and knows Anya. You must be Amun. I heard about you. Didn’t expect that you’d look like a thirteen-year-old boy. But if that’s the look you feel like rockin’ then do you brother.”

“Same sense of humor as her.” Amun pulled out one of his ankh daggers. “But can you fight like her?”

“Well if you fight as bad as you look then I’ll have no problems.”

Amun threw his daggers which was intercepted by one of Lucas’s kunai. The Egyptian assassin smiled as he lunged forward. Lucas flipped back and clung to the wall behind him all while changing into his Avispa costume. Estrella’s magic mixed with his powers made it easy for him to switch in and out of costume.

“This is usually the point where I make a generic speed joke,” Avispa said preparing for Amun to attack fast. “But I got better things to do.”

It’s still very early and people were making their morning commute to work. Some stopped by a newsstand to get their issues of today’s New York Herald or the Daily Bugle. A few stood around or sat and read quietly to themselves. One such person was Lynn Johnson, Anya’s best friend. She glanced over the top of her paper as if she was watching someone.

The person she had her eyes on was a teenage boy with brown hair. She assumed by his build he played sports in school. She kept watching as he was joined by another teenager. This time a female with long black hair. She couldn’t hear what they were saying but based off of her facial expressions she could tell she was a bit stuck up.

The girl grabbed the boy’s hands and begged him to come with her. He finally gave in and they started to leave together. Lynn looked around to see if anyone noticed she was watching them and then took off pulling the hood from her purple hoodie over her head. She kept her distance and if it looked like they were gonna notice her she hid somewhere while still keeping a close watch on them.

“This is the longest any member of the family has been out in public,” Lynn thought to herself as she kept tabs on them. “I can’t let them see me. I can’t give up. I need to know what happened to Mike. The Gonzalez family all went missing after graduation. Mike’s younger brother Andrew is the only one who’s recently come out since they stopped coming home. Lucas and Jessica’s mom didn’t have any answers for me. I’ve tried to talk with them as well but they’ve been busy doing something with Anya. That means I have to take matters into my own hands. This is important. Trailing them maybe kind of creepy but what else can I do about this?”

Just then everyone in the area started to hear what sounded like fireworks. This startled Andrew and the girl he was walking with. Lynn took her eyes off of them to see what the commotion was about. She saw Avispa fighting someone who was running too fast for him to catch. It was his fire bursts that were causing the noise. He was firing them wherever he thought Amun would end up but couldn’t predict his movements well enough. Avispa was always good at tracking his enemy but Amun’s skills paralleled his own.

Lynn looked back at Andrew to find him running off with the girl in hand. She grunted and ran after them. They made a turn together and disappeared before Lynn could make it herself. Her shoulders dropped when she realized she lost them. Her frustration began to show as she cussed out loud and started to tear up. She felt a sudden discomfort in her stomach and put a hand over it. A tear ran down her cheek. She was distraught. She lost her only lead to finding her boyfriend. She turned around so the people coming to her wouldn’t see her crying. There she saw the fight again. The speedster that had been a blur to her moving around Avispa stopped. Lynn got a clear look at him and instantly remembered who it was. Angered she quickly moved across the street. Catching him off guard she grabbed with both hands his costume and held him in place.

“You!” Lynn growled. “I remember you. You had a problem with Anya back when we were fifteen. Why am I not surprised you’re some superpowered freak? Your shenanigans cost me something important!”

Avispa was shocked to see Lynn of all people come grab Amun. What was even more shocking was the strange energy that was emitting from her body. It seemed to empower her. This energy gave her the strength to lift Amun off his feet and against a wall.

“What is this?” asked Avispa. “What are you doing?”

“I don’t know.” Lynn didn’t even realize what she was doing until Avispa mentioned it.

Amun gritted his teeth. “It’s…magic…”

“Put him down and let me handle this,” said Avispa pulling two kunai out.

Araña was dodging an electric blast from the Beetle. In retaliation she shot webbing that wrapped around the Beetle’s waist. Tugging hard she brought the Beetle down to the roof making her smash her head. Araña pounced on her back and grabbed her wings. The Beetle screamed in pain as her back was contorted. Seconds went by before Araña realized what she was doing. She couldn’t believe herself. She was hurting the Beetle in a way a she wouldn’t normally do when it came to fighting supervillains. The wings of Beetle’s costume were still in her hands. She wanted to stop hurting the Beetle but didn’t want her to start up again so she ripped the wings off her costume.

“You’re grounded Beetle,” said Araña. “You won’t be relaying any information to the Kingpin today. Now let’s get the police up here so they can haul you away.”

She webbed the Beetle down to the pavement and pulled out her cellphone. Her intentions were to call 911 and leave the insect for the cops to find while she tried to help Lucas. But she stopped just as she hit the nine. The ground around the Beetle turned purple. Araña cautiously stepped back only to watch the Beetle disappear as if she was sinking into an ocean. She was gone. The ground then turned back to normal. Ripping the webbing away Araña placed a hand on the ground finding it to still be solid.

“What just happened?” She rubbed her hand again on the area but then looked in the direction where Lucas was taken. “He better be all right.”

Avispa knocked out Amun with a swift punch to the head while Lynn held him in place. He then took his kunai and pierced them through Amun’s costume pinning him to the wall. Now that he was securely in place Avispa grabbed Lynn’s arms and talked to her. She calmed down and finally let go. She looked herself over afraid something was wrong with her. Once again she broke down to tears again.

“Hey, hey, don’t worry,” said Avispa. “Everything’s gonna be fine. Whatever this magic is I think it shut off his speed. So you really helped me out there.”

“I don’t know what’s going on anymore,” Lynn cried. “This has been happening ever since…”

“Ever since what?” Avispa lightly rested his hands on her shoulders. “What exactly has been going on?”

“Things like this have been happening over the past week,” Lynn started to explain. “I’d wake up with things floating around my room. I’ve somehow made stuff disappear. I even teleported myself across the city one time. Just all kinds of weird stuff. I’ve been trying to find my boyfriend because he deals with this. He’s Hormiga, you probably know him. His family hasn’t returned home in I don’t know how long. All this ‘magic’ has been happening since I found out something. Something important I need to tell him and I can’t find him. I finally got a lead in the form of his younger brother but your fight with Jon (Amun) scared him off. I don’t know what I’m gonna do.”

“I haven’t seen Hormiga in awhile either,” stated Avispa. “I thought it was weird because we usually find time to butt heads.”

“I could really use a friend right now.” Her tears became more rapid. “But everyone is so busy. I have nowhere to go. My own parents kicked me out of our house. My own parents disowned me.”

Avispa was astonished that her own parents would do such a thing. This stirred up feelings he had regarding his own relationship with both his parents. Granted his relationship with his mother has improved vastly, but it was previously strained thanks to his own father’s magic. It angered him that someone would cast out their own child. Avispa took hold of Lynn and flew up to the skyline. They reached a roof and he let her down easily. Araña caught up and landed next to them relieved that Avispa was all right but confused on why Lynn was here.

“You need a friend?” Avispa pulled up his goggles. “You got one.”

Lynn’s jaw dropped when she saw Lucas’s face. All kinds of emotions surged through her body. She ran to him and cried into his arms. Araña put a hand to her friends back as she wept. It surprised Araña that Avispa would pull up his goggles and reveal his identity, especially since he was so adamant about secret identities. She knew if he did it then she should show her face to her friend who at times was like a sister.

“Lynn, tell me what’s going on,” said Araña as she pulled up her goggles. “What’s got you all worked up?”

Lynn looked up surprised to see Anya. After seeing Lucas she knew she shouldn’t be so surprised but couldn’t help it. She took a deep breath as she let go of Lucas.

“Guys…” She was choked up. “I’m pregnant.”

They were not expecting to hear that. It has been a regular shock filled day and it hasn’t even hit lunchtime yet. They both remembered a conversation they had together after their first meeting with the Jackal’s forces. They were sitting alone together in Anya’s living room. Anya sat close to him relieved that he hadn’t been severely hurt in the ordeal.

“Lucas, there’s something I haven’t been able to stop thinking about,” she said to him.

“Oh, yeah what’s that?” He rested his head next to hers as they sat on the couch.

“Spidercide said something to me.” She smiled enjoying the moment of cuddling. “He explained why he was chasing Lynn. He said there was some prophecy that stated she would give birth to a savior of the Insect Kingdom. I didn’t really know what to think of it at the time. Nor did I understand how she fit into all this. But now I know a connection has been made through your cousin Mike. If this is true they’re probably gonna have a child together.”

In the present, they looked at each other and Avispa said, “You called it.”

“What the fuck?” Lynn wiped her tears away. “That’s messed up. You guys talk about my sex life? Look whatever. What am I gonna do? Mike’s been M.I.A. for awhile now.”

“You know there’s a gang war going on right now?” explained Araña. “Maybe the Ant Council is busy dealing with it somewhere else in the city.”

“I don’t believe that,” responded Avispa. “My mom is a bit concerned about them. Maybe the gangs got to them. Or maybe it’s something else entirely. Lynn come home with us. We’re not gonna let you live on the street.”

“On the street?” questioned Araña. “Your parents kicked you out?”

Lynn lowered her head. Araña put an arm around her friend for a one armed hug and then took hold of her. Avispa remembered Amun. Together they all went down to if he was still knocked out.

“Amun?” asked Araña. “I haven’t seen him in years. He was involved in this?”

They got down to the street level and found him missing. Avispa inspected his kunai that showed no signs of struggle to get free. It was as if he just phased through them. Araña remembered how the Beetle disappeared and wondered if he did the same.

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – GARCIA HOUSEHOLD

The three of them returned to Lucas’s home, which was now becoming a little more crowded than usual. Anya and Lynn took a seat on the living room couch and they talked. Lucas went to look for his mother and found her in the kitchen with the girl Anya saved.

“Wait, wasn’t she bleeding out pretty badly earlier?” asked Lucas. “I remember she was in bad shape.”

“Oh, thank god you’re home!” Erika ran up and hugged her son. “I’ve been so worried. Where’s Anya and Jessica?”

“I left Jessica with Rome at the hospital,” he answered. “They’re there with his family. I brought Anya home with me as well as Lynn who also needs a place to stay.”

Erika looked puzzled. “What, why?”

“She learned she’s having Mike’s baby. Her parents found out and kicked her out.”

“What?” Erika questioned. “I can’t believe Mike and Lynn would be so careless. They’re far too young to have kids. But her parents doing that. That’s wrong. What kind of people would do that to their own children? I probably shouldn’t judge. I wasn’t exactly the best mother to you.”

“I don’t blame you for any of that.” Lucas reassured his mother. “That was all Hechicero’s doing. His magic, if you could have resisted it you would have. Of course if you could have, would the three of us been born?”

“Lucas like your father I’m over nine hundred years old,” she began to explain. “I was hit by the same spell that made him and Anya’s mother immortal. I’ve had a hand at starting numerous families over the centuries. There was always one thing that was always the same. I always had three children. You would have been born one way or another. Lynn can stay here but she’s gonna have to make some big changes.”

“So you were able to figure out that Mike’s little brother had been coming out from wherever it is they’re hiding?” asked Anya in the other room. “Do you know anything else? I don’t understand why they’re in hiding in the first place.”

“Me either…” sighed Lynn. “I know nothing else.”

“What are you gonna do?” Anya looked on with concern. “This is a big responsibility. You’re gonna have to find a part-time job. Not to mention the fact that your parents kicked you out. You’re more than welcome to stay with me and Lucas when we move into Manhattan. We can help you as best we can. Hopefully Mike will step up but you might want to be prepared for him to not be involved. Him and his family going into hiding seems very shady to me.”

“It does to me too.” Lynn got up and paced a bit. “I know it’s more than just Mike not wanting anything to do with me. Ever since I learned he was a superhero I opened myself up to new possibilities that I once would have written off. I feel like something evil is behind this. And I really want to figure out what it is so I can help him.”

“What about your parents? Why would they do this? I knew they were tough on you with school. They even wanted to force a medical profession on you when you didn’t want it.”

“I don’t know.” Lynn stopped pacing. “I guess their reputation is more important than me. Anya, no lie this is gonna be hard, but I can’t be like them. I’ve been crying over this ever since I found out. I can’t cry anymore. I have to take responsibility for what I decided to do. In the process I’m gonna show my parents what it’s like to actually be a good parent. Anya you’re my closest friend. My sister I never had. I had no doubt you’d have my back. I couldn’t ask for a better friend. You’re gonna be an auntie and a godmother if that’s okay?”

Anya smiled. The others gathered in the living room and everyone looked to Felicity for answers. Lynn didn’t even know who the girl was and was too emotional to even ask who she was. Anya couldn’t believe Felicity was up and about after being wounded pretty badly from gang crossfire.

“How are you even moving right now?” asked Anya. “You were in really bad shape when I brought you here.”

“It was your mother,” Erika answered being the only one who really knew. “Sofia appeared and healed Felicity.”

“Mamá?”

This wasn’t the first time someone had seen Anya’s mother Sofia. Lucas after nearly dying from having the Wasp Hunter ripped from him woke to find the spirit of her mother watching over him. And when Hechicero, Lucas’s father, merged the earth with counter-earth Anya could have sworn she felt her mother’s presence. She wanted to see her mother so badly, now more than ever. She wanted to ask her what to do about her father.

“If she can heal her then what about pop?” Anya hoped that this could be the answer she needed.

Erika shook her head sadly, “She says she’s unable to help your father. His fate is in god’s hands now.”

Anya’s body lowered, saddened by the thought there was no hope for her father. Lynn sat back down and tried to comfort her friend.

“So what makes this any different?” Lucas questioned seeing Felicity to be completely healed. “I’m sorry girl but I don’t know you. Who are you and how are you involved with us? Why would Sofia heal you of all people over everyone else that’s been hurt during the gang war?”

“Lucas…” Erika disapproved of her son’s questions.

“My name is Felicity Hardy.” She was nervous about revealing her identity. “From where I come from I’m known as the Scarlet Spider. I’m a hero like you all. I fought alongside your kids. I mean. Crap why did I say that?”

“Our kids?” Lynn looked up from Anya. “What are you talking about? Are you trying to say you’re from the future? It wouldn’t surprise me now learning stuff about my friends they’ve kept secret from me all this time. Especially Anya who I’ve known for how long now?”

“I’m sorry I wanted to tell you but I didn’t want to bring you into harm’s way.” Anya gave Lynn an apologetic look. “And with good reason. Pop’s lying on his deathbed. Lucas was shot in the arm and was lucky that he walked away with only that. I’m sorry Felicity but a lot is going on. You’ll have to figure Lucas.”

“I understand.” Felicity had felt her fair share of heartache in her time period. “This is gonna be hard. I’m stuck here in the past, nine months before I’m even supposed to be born. What if I run into the younger version of my mother? Her name is Felicia Hardy. I don’t know if you know her.”

“The Black Cat?” asked Anya. “I think I met her once through Spider-Man.”

Felicity thought about her family as she continued to talk. “My father is Flash Thompson, an old friend of Spider-Man’s. My mother always wanted me to stay away from superheroes but I couldn’t listen to her. I got involved in a fight with this time travelling villain known as Chronok. When I tried to save someone I was accidentally knocked into the past. And now I might never see my family again. Well, at least the family that knows me. My mother as of this moment is probably just finding out she’s gonna have me.”

MANHATTAN, NEW YORK

The very Felicia Hardy she spoke of sat at a table in her favorite café and instead of drinking her coffee she just looked at her phone in disbelief after hearing a message left for her. She just sat there. People walked around not acknowledging her frozen in place.

In another part of the city, Jessica walked with Rome. He insisted on making sure she got home safe. No words were said. Rome knew for at least the moment his family was safe. The Jackal was too busy to even bother with them. He could finally look forward to a brighter day ahead. And nothing seemed brighter than standing by Jessica’s side. He stopped her. She wasn’t sure why he did it. Before all this he felt like he was chasing her and now he was standing by her side. He had felt a warmth in his heart that he hadn’t before. The only way he could respond was by giving a kiss to Jessica. She blushed but didn’t back off.

After night had fallen the gangs were back at it. There was no end in sight. It seemed the Jackal and the Kingpin were gonna be at it until one or the other fell out of power. There was a fat chance in hell that either would be falling anytime soon. The New Slingers, now with the Goblin added and Hormiga out of action, decided for the night to stay out of it. After all there were other heroes out there.

NEXT: Agony in the Anthill!

LOCATION UNKNOWN

People in purple robes walked around tending to business that recently just came up. One in particular, with a fancier design on his robes stepped forward and greeted two guests who recently arrived in his care.

“They appear to still be out cold,” he said looking at two costumed people sitting motionless in front of him. “What a pity. I was hoping to get introductions out of the way and move on with our plans. What can you tell me about them?”

“The male’s name is Jon Kasiya,” answered someone. “He uses the alias Amun. When his father was murdered he turned to the life of a mercenary at a young age. He auditioned for a job with the Sisterhood of the Wasp and was initially hired to fight against the Spider Society. The other, known as Janice Lincoln, took up the criminal mantle of the Beetle. She is the daughter of the notorious gangster Tombstone. It would seem her involvement in the world of superbeings is new.”

“Interesting,” said the man. “They look like intriguing candidates to join our order. The Order of the Beetle.”